Coronavirus Q&A: Some of my staff can’t work because they need to look after their children. What should I do?

With schools closed across Ireland due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we explain how to handle parents taking time off work for childcare..

BrightHR Team

The COVID-19 pandemic means lots of businesses are adapting to new ways of helping people balance their personal and professional commitments. We ask one of our employment law experts to explain how employers should support staff with changing childcare commitments during this challenging time.

Our employment law expert’s answer

While the COVID-19 pandemic means there are a lot of complicated and confusing things for employers to get their heads around quickly, but staff taking time off for childcare is relatively straightforward.

Yes, the way we are working is changing for lots of us. Some people who are key workers will be still going to their usual place of work, while other people are now working from home for the very first time. But when it comes to taking time off work to look after their children, your employees’ current workplace doesn’t actually matter…

What does matter is whether they can continue working or if they need to stop working temporarily because of their childcare responsibilities.

These means that if your employee needs to care for their children due to a school closure, and you can facilitate them working from home, then you should do this—and continue to pay them as normal.

But if it’s not possible for your employee to work from home (either due to the nature of their job role or because of their childcare responsibilities), then you do not need to pay them while they’re not working.

Remember, it’s going to be commonplace for parents to need to take time off to look after their children due to school closures in the current COVID-19 pandemic. And so you should try to work with your employees and find ways to support them where possible.

While the simplest way is to allow them to work from home, there are other things you could consider, too. For example, you could agree with the employee to treat the time off as annual leave or parental leave, or a combination of the two. You could also negotiate a flexible working pattern. Or you could agree to pay the employee wholly or in part, subject to them working back those hours upon their return to work.

Got a coronavirus question of your own?

If you have a question about the coronavirus and your business, call BrightAdvice today.

One of our legal experts will give you advice based on the most up-to-date COVID-19 guidance, and they’re available 24/7 to answer any questions you might have. Call now on 1800 279 841.